The Inspiration of Awe

I’m covered in crescent moons.

Sitting in the shade, they cover my skin and body as the moon moves over the sun.
I can’t stop smiling!
The light starts to shift, and I can feel it coming. Everyone can. The moment we have been waiting for.
I make my way to the blanket and lay down next to my aunt and stare straight up.
The birds go silent, and the crowd gasps.

Totality

Day into night, night into day. I take off my special glasses, lay them on my chest, exclaiming,
Oh my gosh
Oh my gosh
Oh my GOSH!
I start to giggle, my whole body and mind  engaged in this moment, this incredible miracle,
A total eclipse of the sun.
I’ve never seen one before. And the main feeling?
Awe.
By definition:
an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.
Have you ever felt this?
What were you doing and what did you see?
What did it inspire you to create?
Carolyn Gregoire of the HuffPost writes:
“Psychologists have only recently begun to pay attention to the complicated and varied emotion of awe. In a foundational 2003 paper, psychologists Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley and Jonathan Haidt of New York University outlined how exactly awe works and what effect it has on us. Awe consists of two qualities, Keltner and Haidt say: perceived vastness (something we think to be greater than ourselves), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into one’s current mental structure.
 
It’s an emotion that can have a tremendous impact. “Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can change the course of a life in profound and permanent ways,” they write.”
It took days for me to fully process the experience of seeing the eclipse. We had no cloud cover, and I just kept feeling as though I had witnessed something very special.
Laying on the grass in Santee, South Carolina, with a whole crowd, with a whole campsite, heck…with the whole country…I felt I was indeed part of something much larger.
Turns out, this is exactly what we need as Artists. 
Awe actually brings great emotional benefits. Here’s three main ones:
1) Awe improves our relationship with time.
A 2012 Stanford study found that when people experience awe, they are more likely to feel they are “rich” with time. They have plenty of it! The researchers heard statements like,
I have lots of time to get things done!
Time is expanded.
Imagine what you could get done on your Creative projects with THAT mindset!
Imagine kicking Overwhelm to the curb and feeling calm in your day, as you do the work you love so much and see the results you desire.
In another study, the researchers asked people to write about an awe inspiring experience and another group to write about a happy experience. Those writing about the awe-inspiring experience reported an expanded sense of time, while the other group did not.
Place your attention on Awe. Get out in nature, watch an incredible video, go see that work of art or watch that performer that leaves you speechless.
2) Awe can boost your Creativity
We have all stood witness to works of art that were inspired by Awe. Think of Ansel Adams breathtaking landscape photography, or a moving memoir from a life-changing event.
As Artists we have the ability to TRANSLATE our experiences into art for our audience. It’s when our audience goes on this journey with us, that the true magic happens. They bond with you, and want to return again and again, forming a relationship all based on the fact you took that awe-inspiring experience and brought it to life through words, paint, song, or dance.

“A 2012 study from Tel Aviv University found that “expansive thinking” could lead to boosts in creativity. According to the study’s lead researcher, “outward” rather than “inward”-focused thinking helped children to consider different perspectives and see beyond their present situation.

In the study, one group of children was asked to look at a series of photos, beginning with local objects such as a pencil sitting on the desk in front of them, and progressing to vast or faraway things, like the Milky Way galaxy. The other group of children was showed the images in the opposite order, from expansive to immediate. The children in the group that progressed from local to expansive images performed significantly better on a test of creativity directly after looking at the images than the children who looked at nearby images last.”

3) Awe can literally transform you

“1964, psychologist Abraham Maslow formulated his famous theory of “peak experiences” — instances of near-mystical rapture and wonder in the everyday. His description clearly involves an element of awe, and he suggests that “peak” experiences of awe can be transformative, and indeed, life-changing. By Maslow’s description, peak experiences involve “disorientation in space and time, ego transcendence and self-forgetfulness; a perception that the world is good, beautiful and desirable.” He believed that this change in perception — a sort of epiphany — could have transformational effects.”

Remember that your Art is an expression of you. Your art expresses what you believe, your perceptions, and your experience. If you ultimately believe in goodness, that is translated not only to your art, but to your audience.

Your audience wants to feel good.

It’s this bond that makes your audience return again and again. This is what creates raving fans.

If you’re shut down and have no hope or belief in humanity, that will translate into your art and cut off any chance of connection. The seats will be empty, and you will only feel isolated.

Isolation shuts us down as Artists. We need to expand.

Want to cultivate that belief in yourself and transform into the most powerful Artist you can be?

Expose yourself to Awe.

You may find yourself covered in magical crescent moons, smiling for the world to see.

The Heat Is On

I think I’m going to pass out.

The sun is beating down on me, sweat is pouring down my face. The heat index is in the 100s, it’s midday, and I’m on the open water.

Did I mention there are alligators in the water??

My little baseball cap seems like a small joke on my head, and even though I slathered 45 SPF all over my arms, they feel like they are literally burning up,

This isn’t what I wanted.
I want to enjoy kayaking with my family.
I don’t want to have this reaction.
I don’t want to be so sensitive to the heat.

My aunt, behind me in the tandem kayak, starts to speak to me, saying we can turn around, and go back to the dock.

I see my parents, and the tears start to fall, as I choke out,
I’m not doing so well.

Have you ever felt like this?
Had a reaction and strong emotion you don’t want to have?
Have you ever felt like you were stuck, struggling in the open water of strong emotions in your Art?

And there can be so many….emotions around rejection, comparison, competition, frustration that you are simply NOT where you want to be.  At the end of the day, you just DON’T want to feel it!

I mean, how can that possibly help, right?
So, what do you do?

 

I haven’t been kayaking in five years. 

It’s been a really fun activity to do with my parents, who love to be on the water.  I’ve never been especially skilled with an oar, but the views from the water are breathtaking. I was really looking forward to sharing this experience with them again.

We were all down in Santee, South Carolina, for the eclipse weekend, and I had been watching the weather forecast carefully, deeply concerned about the heat index.

High heat and high humidity is pretty much my kryptonite.

I’ve had sun stroke and heat exhaustion as an adult, vomiting and being sick in bed for days, plus many crazy rashes that stay on my skin for weeks.

Like I said, kryptonite.

We planned the kayaking last Sunday for 9 am, the earliest the company had available, and planned to be out for just a few hours.

This was MY plan, not what actually occurred.

When we arrived, we encountered the brother of the actual owner of the rental company.  He had come to just help out for the weekend, and was missing one crucial item,

The keys to the office.

In the office were the life jackets and the oars.  And his brother who had the keys?  He was out on the water giving a kayaking lesson with no cell service.

We were stuck.
I was stuck.

And I could feel the frustration and fear rising.  The day was only getting hotter, and the sun higher.

But most of all was the simple realization,
I have NO control over this situation right now.

So, the only question was,
HOW am I going to meet it?

How do you meet that moment when you have no control over what is happening?

How do you deal with the frustration and fear when it’s arising, especially when it’s something so important to YOU?

 

We didn’t get into the water until 10:30, and hour and a half later than planned.

As I watched the brother doing his best to problem solve, and dealing with all the crowds of people waiting to get their oars and life jackets, I sat in the shade and said over and over,

Even though I feel anxious, I deeply love and accept myself.
Even though I feel scared, I deeply love and accept myself.

When we pushed into the water, I desperately wanted to experience a cool breeze, and a relief.  I wanted to feel safe and ok to be on the water for the next 2-3 hours.

And I felt NONE of that.

Instead, everything intensified. My aunt and I were paddling as quickly as we could to get to the bend, and come into the inlet where there were supposed to be trees and shade along the water.

When we finally got to the shade, about 15-20 minutes later, I was a mess, overheated, and crying.

And then my family mirrored back to me the biggest lesson.

They met my pain with acceptance.
They met my pain with care.

They met my pain with unconditional love.

They didn’t make me wrong.
They didn’t diminish my experience.

My mother came alongside the kayak, and gave me her wide brimmed hat, and had me take my cloth and start to dunk the lake water over the head.

As I squeezed the water onto my scalp, the heat began to dissipate, and I exhaled through tears,

I feel self conscious.
I feel embarrassed.

And the intensity lowered, my breathing came back, and a breeze started to travel across my wet scalp and neck.

I knew I wasn’t going to pass out.  I felt so much better, and I knew I was safe.

 

Imagine meeting your strong emotions like this.

Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t make yourself wrong.
Imagine if you didn’t diminish your own experience.

Imagine if you met these moments with unconditional love.

We can so easily be shocked at watching someone throw anger and yell at another person.

But, how are you speaking to yourself?

What do you say to yourself when you are dealing with these challenging moments?

We can easily throw blame in a situation we are not happy with in our Art.  Especially because our work means SO much.

But, if you just blame someone else, or sweep your strong emotions under the rug, they will only appear again and again.

Why?

Because they are the child waiting to be loved.

Really, at our core, this is what we are seeking. And as Artists, this is paramount to not only our work, but our relationship with collaborators and our audience.

It all begins with you.

How you deal and speak to yourself in the most challenging moments, directly affects all other relationships in your Art.

If you are making yourself wrong all the time, what are you saying and doing to your audience, your customers, and your support system? Are they wrong too?

Judgement will only stop you in your tracks.  It will halt your productivity, stop your projects, and cut you off from growth and achieving the acclaim you desire.

So, the next time you feel like you are being baked alive in the heat of your emotions, take a breath, and connect in.  Meet your fears with LOVE.  Say what you are feeling, and ALLOW them to move through you.

Place the cooling water on your head, and RECEIVE your own unconditional love.  Challenges will always arise. We have no control over that.

But it you are able to meet them AS they arise, you will be able to keep paddling, and enjoy the true benefits of your passion. You will have the long and  abundant career you desire, making a living from your art, and creating an impact with your work.

I ended up being on the water for three hours, having quality time with my family, and experiencing the beauty of the cypress trees.  I was able to process the fear, and cool down the heat.

You can too.

The cool breeze on the water awaits.

Unconditionally.